The UPDF Second division commander, Brig Patrick Kankiriho, has described the UPDF as a people's army that cannot stage a coup, despite warnings from President Museveni that soldiers may throw chaotic politicians out of power.
"The coup talk to me is nonsense [and] there is no Ugandan who should take it seriously," Kankiriho told The Observer in Katerera town, Rubirizi district, last week. He urged people to stay calm and go about their businesses normally.
"I hear of 'UPDF coup'; we take over from ourselves or what? I appeal to the people of Uganda to use logic and realize that the talk is empty and must be disregarded" he said.
When asked about the fact that the comments were made by the president, his line minister Crispus Kiyonga and Chief of Defence Forces Aronda Nyakairima, Kankiriho insisted that according to him and the information he has, there was no coup in offing. Between 1962 and 1986, Uganda suffered five violent takeovers, with soldiers shooting presidents into exile.
But since Museveni's National Resistance Army rebels stormed Kampala 27 years ago, there has been no coup attempt. But political and military leaders have recently threatened the army would intervene, following scenes of impassioned political rows in Parliament. Kankiriho, however, argued that Museveni, the commander-in-chief of the UPDF, is a soldier himself and wondered how the army he commands could overthrow him.
Nevertheless, the statements about the possibility of a coup have raised anxiety in western Uganda, with people quietly discussing the issue in villages and trading centres.
Other senior UPDF officers, including Generals David Tinyefuza, now David Sejusa, and Elly Tumwine, have dismissed the statements as out of place. Although the president's office has insisted that Museveni was misquoted when he spoke to NRM legislators last month, eyewitnesses insist the reports are accurate.
The government has also appeared clueless on how to deal with similar statements subsequently uttered by Minister Kiyonga and army chief Aronda Nyakairima.